Dexter Dalwood talking about his work from 1997- 2017 at his show at the Tate in St Ives, Cornwall, gives a fascinating account of his thoughts and ideas on how and why he makes paintings.
He wondered why a lot of artists were not making work about subjects that interested them. Song writers, groups, musicians were using everything in their world that they see, read, hear, imagine, think, or fantasise about, but many artists he met were not. He thought, why is it not possible? It took him a long time to discover how he could use his interests in his work.
This is when the idea of places he had read about, but had not seen, came to him. A passage he had read from a book called Helter Skelter gave a description of the scene the police found when investigating the Manson Murders. When they entered the room, they could not see the body of Sharon Tate, she was hidden from view until they went around the couch draped with the American flag, and there she lay murdered.
The idea of using real world experiences, unusual happenings in everyday life, items on the news, articles in books, poetry, and music to generate inspiration for work appealed to him.
The death of David Kelly, the UN weapons inspector, is a subject of a painting. Kelly was alleged to have committed suicide after being questioned about his role in the lead up to the Iraq War. At the time of his death, there was a lot of press coverage and thought to have been a mysterious conspiracy.
Dalwood says he is not interested in standing in front of a blank canvas and starting off to make a paint. He uses collage to work out compositionally how he is going to approach the subject before setting out to paint. Not all the collages on show at the exhibition became paintings.
He wants to make people think and understand why a particular point is being made at that time. He is not trying to make you feel that you are not clever enough to understand the painting or trick you historically. Some viewers can see influences of other artists, i.e., Edward Hopper, Francis Bacon and Jasper Johns, but they are Dalwood’s paintings.
Dalwood,D Interview At: www.tate.org.uk/art/artist/dexter-dalwood-collective-memories. (Accessed 10/02/2021).